MOSCOW, July 27 - RAPSI. The High Court of Justice of England and Wales held today that Russian oil tycoon Viktor Vekselberg is entitled to cancel his purchase and receive a refund for a painting which proved to be inauthentic, according to the judgment handed down Friday.
Vekselburg filed negligence claims against Christie’s as well, which were denied.
Vekselberg purchased the painting at issue at auction in 2005 by way of Avrora Fine Arts Investment Ltd., his own organization. At the time, he believed that the purchase was of “Odalisque,” an original painting by Russian artist Boris Mikhailovich Kustodiev. Vekselberg’s suspicions as to the painting’s authenticity were aroused in May 2006, when a visiting art dealer expressed doubt on the matter. Vekselberg sought expert advice from Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery. After his suspicions had been confirmed in November 2006, Vekselberg sought to cancel his purchase from Christie’s. Christie’s refusal to comply with his request led to the present judgment.
On the painting’s authenticity, the judge concluded, “my task is to determine authenticity on the balance of probabilities, and the likelihood, in my view, is that ‘Odalisque’ is the work of someone other than Kustodiev. It follows that Avrora is entitled to cancel its purchase of the painting and to recover the money it paid.” The judge arrived at this conclusion after considering expert evidence of the painting’s authenticity as well as an absence of any reference to it in the archives.
"We welcome the judge’s findings that Christie’s was not negligent. We are surprised and disappointed by his view of the painting’s attribution. We maintain our belief in the attribution to Kustodiev and are considering our options," Mattew Paton, Head of Communications at Christie's, commented.
Speaking with RAPSI Friday, Paton pointed to the language contained within the judgment that conveyed the judge’s lack of absolute certainty that the painting was a fake.